If you’ve been following Mark on social media you already know that a limited omnibus edition of his first three books, Prince, King and Emperor of Thorns has been produced by Grim Oak Press. A lettered edition of only 52 copies has already been sold out, but there are still some of the limited edition left. You can order one on the Grim Oak Press website.
I recently received mine and took some photos of it – it’s a beautiful book indeed. It contains three black and white interior plates by Jason Chan featuring his previous cover artwork on the trilogy and ten new black and white interior images, also by him. Beside the three novels the omnibus features a new Jorg short story, ‘No Second Troy’. The exterior and interior thorn graphics were created by Nate Taylor. The book comes signed by all three of them.
For more information and photos of the interior art please visit the Grim Oak Press Website.
And finally, to raise further interest, Mark has allowed me to post the beginning of No Second Troy!
No second Troy by Mark Lawrence
“Why are we here?” Sir Makin asked, following me up the slope at a trot.
“I had a dream.”
Sir Makin snorted at that. So did his horse. But it was true. I had a dream.
There is a walled city that sits amidst the wideness of the River Lure on the Orlanth borders. It rests upon an island of bedrock and covers it so completely that the walls of the city wet their feet in the Lure’s currents. They call it The City of Towers and it has never been taken by force.
The last time that the City of Towers changed rulers it was the people themselves that delivered it, overthrowing their lord and opening the gates to the Prince of Arrow. That is unlikely to happen again. The Prince of Arrow was famously good, and I … am not. In truth there is little to recommend me to the citizens within those walls. Lord Alstan, newly appointed by the hastily reinstated King of Orlanth, may be a greedy despot, but he is their greedy despot, a devil they know. All they know of me is that I am a devil. And that I have hastily uninstated the king, whose blood still shows upon the toes of my boots.
“It is impressive.” I patted Brath’s neck and let him chew the grass before us. Down across steep green slopes hatched with fields, across the sparkling waters of the Lure, the City of Towers rose, wrapped in its walls, as if it had been dropped into the river’s midst. The early morning sun caught on its many slender spires turning them to threads of gold, and lit the sandstone expanse of wall and parapet making something precious that I might stretch out a hand and take. “A thing of beauty.”
“We don’t need it.” Makin looked back over his shoulder. “Marten has had them bottled up for months already. In time they’ll starve and open the gates.”
I could see the rows of tents where Marten’s officers were stationed at the margins of woods to the east. Dotted across the landscape the concentrations of his troops and their lean-to shelters made ugly scars. To the west tendrils of smoke still rose from two blackened areas, farmsteads most likely, or villages.
“Bottled?” Marten hadn’t the numbers to seal off so large a city. Even with the army at my back we wouldn’t make a cordon so tight that determined individuals couldn’t come and go. Still, Makin was right, they would starve given time. Hunger would be gnawing at them even now. “Do you know why they’re waiting, Lord Makin?”
Makin shrugged, clanking in his armour. “It’s what people do. People wait, even when the outcome is inevitable.”
“I believe you just described life in a single line, brother.” I allowed myself a smile. “They’re waiting because things may change. It’s not safe to stand still in this Broken Empire of ours – not out in the open. Things change. They’re waiting because they know that the tides may reverse and sweep us from their walls without them lifting a finger.” I pointed at the city while looking at Makin. Behind him the columns of my army snaked along the valley toward the river. “That, Lord Makin, is a symbol of hope, a symbol of defiance. All across this land the people of Orlanth are talking even now about the City of Towers and how it holds its own against King Jorg. They will be making songs about Lord Alstan, songs that won’t remember how many men of Orlanth lost a hand because they couldn’t pay his taxes, or how he had his nephews throttled beneath his own roof. No, they’ll be singing about a golden lord, proud among his towers, a man of Orlanth stone resisting the wind that blows from Renar’s mountains.”
Makin took his helm off, running a hand up through dark and sweaty locks. “Lord Alstan has as many men-at-arms in that city as we have soldiers in the field. They say he’s a decent tactician too. I’m not over-eager to fight him out in the open. Storming the walls would be suicide. If they want to wait until they’re too feeble with hunger to do battle then that’s all to the good!”
“It makes us look weak,” I said. “It makes me look weak. And when you look weak the wolves come prowling. If we sit here for months, locked in place by our fear of those walls … the rest of the world will notice, and when we ride back to Normardy, Belpan and Arrow … those places will be in revolt. Fear is all that keeps them mine. Fear and certainty.”
Riders came up the slope, four of them, Rike the most obvious, hulking over his poor horse, jolting in that ungainly way of his having never learned any more grace in the saddle than your average sack of potatoes. They drew up alongside Makin, now returned to the ridge. Red Kent came across to me, Brother Emmer and old Keppen in his wake.
“Everyone says that.”
He shaded his eyes and gazed at the city. “Those walls … what … ninety foot?”
“Give or take.”
“The river’s running low,” he said.
I nodded. “It’s high summer.” The river was low though, even for summer. Broad and muddy shores lay exposed, the water yards shy of its habitual levels.
“Walls like that need engineers if you’re going to bring them down.” Brother Kent wiped the sweat from his brow, his skin near as red as his name. Only Rike burned worse than Kent. He frowned. “Didn’t you bring a crew of builders out of Hodd Town?”
“I did,” I said. “And labourers.” I had a conscript force of three thousand workers, strong backs and semi-willing hands aplenty. Among them men who had built many of the most impressive castles to be found between the Horse Coast and the Quiet Sea. “But they won’t be coming. I have other work for them to do.”
“So … how in the hell are we going to take the place?” Brother Emmer rode in closer, chewing a toothpick in the corner of his mouth.
“And why?” Rike asked. Looming above me now. “Let them starve. Loot the bones.”
I returned my gaze to the city. It took an impressive set of walls to make Rike suggest waiting when loot was involved.
“Time, my brothers, is the fire in which we burn,” I quoted. “A king doesn’t govern with troops. No army can suppress the unwilling people of an entire country. A king governs through authority, and that – whether it comes through fear or through adoration – needs to be earned if the throne in question is not one you were born to. This city is the price of the west.”
“I thought we paid that price when the Prince of Arrow broke his twenty thousand on your walls,” Makin said.
“That was the price of our freedom. To earn his dominions I need to do here what he couldn’t do to me. I need to break the strongest fortress in his lands.” I knew it to be true. The six kingdoms that swore fealty to the Prince of Arrow would not swear the same to me simply because I wore the man’s blood. They would go their own ways, divided by ambitious lords, usurped by lost heirs … unless I showed them something. Something spectacular.
That evening I had our tents pitched in the field before the woods where Marten had sited his headquarters. The man had taken to war. He had been a poor farmer but as a captain of armies he showed a brilliance for strategy and tactics seemingly absent when choosing which crop to sew and when to reap it.
Marten came to sit with me as we ate our lunch, laid on tables out in the trampled wheat field. I sat with a view to the east, looking out across the sparkling Lure and upstream to where it divided about the city.
“It’s not possible,” he said. “The Prince of Arrow’s twenty thousand would have broken here without the need for genius. Our four thousand would hardly get the bells ringing.” He looked tired. Four seasons of campaigning had hollowed his cheeks and put grey among the red stubble of his beard.
“We would need some kind of miracle,” I said. “Some great work of magic.”
“Can you cast an enchantment on those walls?” he asked. Not entirely an idle question for in my time I had been filled to bursting with magics. And had very nearly burst.
“Enchantment is one burden I no longer carry.” I stabbed a small fish from my plate, a trout the cook had claimed, from the Lure itself, but if it was a trout it was the smallest I ever saw, as if the fish had shrunk with the river. It tasted good though.
“What about the lead casket?” Marten asked.
“Lead casket?” I paused to chew.
“That you’ve been carrying about for months on that rather fine piebald stallion,” Marten said. “The men all think it holds some kind of wonder.”
I swallowed. “Oh it does. Soil from Kane’s Scar.”
Marten crossed himself.
“It’s nasty stuff,” I said. Kane’s Scar was promised land, still burning with the invisible fires from the Builders’ war. I’d ventured into such lands in the Iberico Hills. No journey in such a place is short enough. “But a little poisoned dirt isn’t going to bring a city down, now is it?”
Marten conceded my point with a shrug. “I know why we’re really here.” He drained his tankard and wiped the foam from his lips.
“She’s in there.”
“You could just demand they send her out,” he suggested.
“There are other reasons I’m here too, Marten.” I picked two small bones from the corner of my mouth. “My armies are not pushed here and there across the map by rumours of Katherine ap Scorron.”
“I’m sure Queen Miana would be pleased to hear it.” He pursed his lips and looked away. He knew he was safe enough to cheek me – though few men were. In any event he was part right. His three thousand were always due to visit the City of Towers. The thousand I’d brought with me from killing a king in Limoges though, those were a thousand launched by Katherine herself. I had seen her face in my dreams, and I had turned north.
“So, no magic, no miracle, we starve them out.” Marten reached for the bread. “And as long as nothing happens that requires your forces elsewhere … the place will be yours by winter. Spring at the latest.”
I stood behind the good captain, still seated at table, with my brothers watching on and the bustle and clatter of camp all about us. I rested both hands upon his shoulders and we looked toward the city. “The summer solstice is with us in three days. I want that city by then.”
“You’re going to need boats now the bridges are down. Get every rowboat and coracle there is, upstream and down. I don’t care if you have to send men twenty miles. If there are three planks lashed together – take them. If not, lash them together then take them. A thousand should do.” I smiled at Sir Makin. “It’s a good thing our army is quite small.”